Sri Lanka debates its antiquated Muslim family laws

TO AVOID being married at 17 to a stranger, the Muslim schoolgirl from Sri Lanka’s north-west tried to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of her mother’s diabetes pills. While she was recovering in hospital, her parents went ahead and registered the marriage. The union took place under the version of Sri Lanka’s family law that applies only to Muslims. It does not require the bride’s consent and does not specify a minimum age for marriage. Instead, it merely stipulates that children under 12 can only be married with the approval of a quazi, or Muslim family judge. The penal code, helpfully, exempts Muslims from prosecution for statutory rape providing the victim is married to the perpetrator and is 12 or older.

Unions of other Sri Lankans fall under the General Marriage Registration Ordinance, which sets the minimum age at 18. Muslim marriages and divorces, and interfaith ones involving a Muslim, are governed by the Muslim Marriage and Divorce...Continue reading

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